Mid-Missouri schools fight to keep drop outs in class

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According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2011 people without a high school diploma made a median salary of $459 per week. That jumps to $636 for someone with a high school diploma, and $1,152 for someone with a college bachelor's degree.

These numbers are part of what drives local school districts to reduce the drop out rates.

Drop out rates in the Jefferson City Public School District are higher than the state average, 4.4 percent last year, compared, compared to Missouri's 3.4 percent. But the numbers are much improved from six years ago when the district started an alternative high school. Deanne Fisher is the principal for the 135 students served at the JC Academic Center, located in the Miller Performing Arts Center.

"We have out a lot of kids in charge of decision making in regards to attendance and the way certain classes are done, and so they feel that ownership." says Fisher.

But the school's nine teachers can't serve all the students who want to be there. One hundred are on the waiting list. Others can't come to grips with their own problems says Fisher.

"We find that they aren't ready for us. They're not ready to accept that they've made some mistakes and they're ready to make some changes."

In the Columbia Public Schools the drop out rate is 3.1 percent. That is below the state average, but not low enough according to spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark.

"It's always urgent when we have a student who is not able to be successful in an academic or educational environment. That is why we have staff members who are trained in these areas to be able to provide the necessary support," says Baumstark.

The Columbia district also offers Douglass High School as an alternative, and outreach programs at individual schools.

But Baumstark adds, the problems that lead to a student dropping out don't always involve academic challenges, but those at home.

"There are personal things that happen. There are things that happen outside the regular school day that provide really difficult challenges for our students. So, we have to be able to address those and provide the support that they need."

Click here for the MO Department of Elementary School's statistics for every school district in the state. Chose your district, then use the menu on the left to select drop out rates.